Why Do Fingernails Have Ridges?

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Nails are the outer structures which protect the soft sensitive tips of our fingers and toes. Apart from protection, they are useful indicators of general health. Nails are made up of the protein keratin, just like our hair and skin. There is multiplication of cells from the base of the nails as a result of which the nail grows.

Any change or abnormality in the structure and shape of nail could be due to a variety causes. Nutritional deficiency is quite a common reason for appearance of ridges.  Abnormalities of both finger and toe nails could be due to some underlying infection.

Often we see horizontal or vertical lines running across the length of the nail. These lines are so well defined that they appear like ridges which gives the nail an abnormal appearance.

Why do ridges occur?

Vertical ridges are often attributed due to aging or some genetic influence and most often do not require any treatment. Vertical ridges are mainly caused due to lack of moisture and dehydration which occurs as age progresses. All the natural oils of the nails are lost as a result of which the nail becomes dehydrated, and tends to get ridges as well become brittle.

Malnutrition along with vitamin or protein deficiency can aggravate the ridges on the nail. Sometimes in spite of eating right, the body is unable to absorb the nutrients required known as malabsorption. This requires immediate attention to determine the cause of malabsorption.

With certain modifications in eating habits as well as proper nail care, vertical ridges are easily treatable as well as avoidable.

Horizontal ridges definitely signify some underlying medical condition like respiratory disorders, skin disorder, diabetes or heart disease. There are different types of presentations of horizontal lines which occur in different conditions.

Beau’s lines are deep horizontal depressions on the fingernail that are darkened beneath the nail, which signifies some interruption in the keratin formation. Usually, they occur due to severe illness or diabetes.

Muehrcke’s lines occur as a pair of lines extending horizontally which happens due to some interruption or abnormality in the blood supply to the nail. These occur in liver and kidney diseases.

Mee’s lines are horizontal whitish bands which occur on more than one nail and normally indicate arsenic metal poisoning. Trauma to nail can also lead to horizontal ridges which will go away as the nail grows. Patients with liver cirrhosis, diabetes, and kidney or HIV infection can also have deep horizontal ridges.


A balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and meat can improve the status of the fingernails. Vitamin supplements should be taken to improve nutritionalstatus. Loads of water should be taken to be well hydrated. Medical conditions like diabetes, blood pressure and heart conditions should be monitored and treated carefully.


Nails are protective structures made of protein and any change in the structure of the nail usually indicates some nutritional deficiency or some serious medical condition. Ridges can be either horizontal or vertical. Vertical ridges occur mainly due to aging and lack of moisture which results in dehydration and brittleness. Horizontal ridges indicate a more serious medical condition; mainly skin, heart, diabetes and kidney and liver ailments. Management of these ridges mainly involves improving nutritional status along with hygienic nail care and hydration of nails. Medical conditions should be treated accordingly.

Author: rachita

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